Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Keeping Your Dog Safe This Winter

Here in Michigan the winters can be brutal.  Last winter was one for the record books and the past few nights here the temperatures have plummeted below zero degrees.  It is at this point when I am asking myself how I still live here, and subsequently check housing prices in The Keys.  As with people, many dogs love the snow (my Eva girl seen below) and many dogs do not.  It is our job as dog owners to keep them safe in these blustery winter months.  Here are some tips to keep your dog safe this winter.

Keep pets indoors and warm
My Eva would spend all day outside if I let her, but is best to limit yours dog's time outside.  Do not allow your dog to be idle indoors, however, or they can/will act out.  You can still take your dogs for walks, as weather allows, or find fun indoor games to keep their mind sharp.  Teaching your dog a "find" command is great for those winter months.  To do this, hide your dog's favorite toy or treat and have them search for it in the home.

You should also consider your dog's coat type.  A German Shepherd Dog will be able to withstand colder temperatures better than a Pit Bull, as example.  For those dogs with a short coat, a sweater or jacket may be a necessity.

Consider windchill, it can threaten a pet's life.  Dogs are at risk, just as humans are, for frostbite and hypothermia during extreme cold snaps.  Exposed skin on noses, ears and paws can freeze quickly and suffer permanent damage.

Give your dogs plenty of food and water
Keeping warm takes energy and burns calories.  When your dog has spent a lot of time outside make sure to feed an appropriate amount of food and, as always, keep fresh water available.

Protect paws from salt
Buy pet friendly ice melt.  The salt and other chemicals used in ice melt can irritate the pads of your dog's feet.  Make sure to wipe all paws with a damp towel before your dog licks them and irritates their mouth.

Avoid antifreeze poisoning
Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract dogs. Wipe up spills and keep antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach of your dog. Coolants and antifreeze made with propylene glycol are less toxic to dogs and other pets.

Be careful with cats, wildlife and cars
This one is not relevant to dogs specifically, although a small dog may do this.  The warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood. If you park outside, hit your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.

Speak out if you see a pet left in the cold
If you see a dog (or any pet for that matter) left in the cold, document what you see.  Important information to gather would be the date, time, exact location and type of animal, plus as many details as possible. I would also suggest video and/or photos.  Contact your local animal control agency, in Muskegon County this happens to be the Sheriff's Department.  Make sure you note with whom you speak and when. Then follow up in a few days if the situation has not been remedied.

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